RELEASED: July 23, 2015

The inaugural Simcoe County Sprout Ideas Camp was held recently at Bear Creek Secondary School in Barrie. Offered through TakingITGlobal, the week-long social innovation camp enabled local high-school students to learn about social issues and create social enterprises to help alleviate them.

Throughout the week, Georgian College's Centre for Social Entrepreneurship, Greater Barrie Business Enterprise Centre, City of Barrie, Orillia Area Community Development Corporation and experts in marketing, technology and social impact shared their knowledge of social issues and social entrepreneurship with students.

Dominika Zapolnik-Farrelly, social entrepreneurship liaison with the Centre for Social Entrepreneurship, inspired students to recognize their potential and ability to create lasting and meaningful change through social entrepreneurship.

"The camp was an incredible opportunity for students to learn about social enterprises, whose main purpose is to help alleviate a social issue at the local and/or global level," said Zapolnik-Farrelly. "As one of the speakers at the camp, as well as a member of the camp's industry advisory panel, it was truly inspirational to observe the learning that took place and the amazing social entrepreneurial projects students came up with."

Students formed groups based on a shared passion for helping to alleviate a social issue. When groups were created, students developed team brands, prototyped solutions using Design Thinking, which teaches people to solve problems and find solutions in creative ways, and developed a pitch to present to a panel of experts. With more than a dozen mentors and speakers throughout the week, students had a variety of opportunities to develop entrepreneurship, leadership and technology skills.

"I feel really inspired now to make a change. The camp helped me to want to change my career path to be more socially aware," said 16-year-old student Julia Marr.

Marr and her fellow camp team members, Sophia Ward, 15, and Alyssa Lancione, 14, were the group chosen to receive a prize of gift cards to help them continue the development of their social enterprise. The group came up with an app called I am Equal. The purpose of the app is to help post-secondary students entering areas of study that have been traditionally gender-dominated.

The group created the app to promote gender equality for all (male, female, transgendered and gender-fluid) and wants to help those entering non-traditional fields of study through the creation of character-based scholarships.

"The camp gave me a lot of confidence in my social entrepreneurial ability. It helped me acquire communication, collaboration and presentation skills," said Ward.

The group has visions of launching a website for its social enterprise as well as creating T-shirts and pins to advertise the app.

"I'm really excited and happy. I learned a lot of new ways to communicate. I'm normally really, really shy," said Lancione.

A panel of four experts from community and industry organizations determined the winning group based on an evaluation of students' pitches using four criteria: creativity, impact, presentation quality and the opportunity for immediate implementation.

Three other groups taking part in the camp came up with ideas and prototypes of their concepts. The Water-Workers group envisioned clean drinking water for all using water-filter straws that could hold vitamins or other nutritional supplements. Another group created an app called Beat Depression that would allow teens to connect with others and share their struggles as well as have access to counselling services and statistics. A fourth group, Global Classroom, envisioned selling branded classroom supplies to raise funds for donations to schools around the globe, ensuring all children have access to education.

"It was amazing to see how quickly students turned their ideas for social change into prototypes that we would easily understand," said Michael Furdyk, TakingITGlobal's director of innovation. "The expert panel found it difficult to pick just one winner, with several high-impact ideas presented, and certainly hopes all of the students will continue to pursue their concepts further."

Sprout Ideas Camp is a partnership with the Simcoe County District School Board.

"We truly appreciate the opportunity our students had to develop their creativity, collaboration and entrepreneurial skills through this unique partnership," said Anita Simpson, the board's superintendent of program and innovation.

The program is aimed at supporting young visionaries who are excited about innovation, technology and social change, fostering entrepreneurial experience and skill development in students in grades 9 to 12 through exploration, technology and design. The camp was offered free of charge as a partnership between TakingITGlobal and the school board, with financial support from the Ministry of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure. 

Source: Packet & Times